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HSPT – What You Need To Know About the High School Placement Test

HSPT – What You Need To Know About the High School Placement Test

What is the HSPT?

The High School Placement Test (HSPT) is a nationally-recognized private school entrance examination, created by the Scholastic Testing Service (STS), available to students as part of the private school application process. The test is designed for middle school students trying to get into high school, so the majority of test takers are eighth graders, though some seventh graders take the test as well. For the most part, a typical middle school curriculum will have exposed students to the content tested on the HSPT, though a basic understanding of algebra and geometry is necessary for the math sections.

Unlike most other standardized exams, the HSPT does not have national administration dates. Private schools administer the HSPT as part of the application process. According to the STS website, students should not take the test more than once. In fact, if a student takes the test more than once, the STS indicates that the lower of the two scores should be used for consideration. Registration and test schedules are handled on a school-by-school basis; parents will need to contact the schools to which their children are applying in order to find out specific dates and deadlines. The STS does not handle registration for the exam, this is also handled on a school-by-school basis.

What is on the HSPT?

The exam, which is about 2.5 hours long, tests the following abilities: Verbal Skills, Quantitative Skills, Reading Comprehension, Mathematics, and Language.

Verbal Skills

The verbal skills section contains questions pertaining to analogies, synonyms, antonyms, vocabulary, and verbal logic. The purpose of this section is to test a student’s ability to understand the relationships between words and concepts.

Quantitative Skills

The quantitative skills section contains questions pertaining to number manipulation, geometric and non-geometric comparison, and patterns and sequences. The topics covered in this section include arithmetic, basic algebra, and basic geometry.

Reading Comprehension

The reading comprehension section contains passages and questions that test the student’s understanding of central meaning, ability to obtain information from reading, and basic understanding of vocabulary.


The math section contains questions that test the student’s problem solving abilities and understanding of mathematical concepts. The topics covered in this section include arithmetic, basic algebra, and basic geometry.


The language section tests the student’s understanding of written English. The problems are largely related to spelling, grammar, punctuation, and syntax.

Some schools also administer an optional science section, which covers general topics in astronomy, biology, chemistry, earth science, and physics.

The HSPT vs. the ISEE

The HSPT is comparable in both content and format to the ISEE Upper Level, another private school entrance exam. Content-wise, the biggest difference between the two tests is that there is no essay on the HSPT. The HSPT is primarily used by Catholic private schools; the ISEE is used by a wider range of private schools. In addition, the ISEE has three levels: lower, mid, and upper, which correspond to what grade the student is going into; the HSPT is for prospective high school students only.

Preparing for the HSPT

As with any standardized test, preparation is essential to success. There are a few HSPT study guides available on the internet and in stores; if, after reviewing concepts and practicing problems, you and your student decide that further assistance would be beneficial, then consider professional HSPT exam preparation. The HSPT can have a significant impact on a student’s future and should not be taken lightly. Thorough preparation is the key to making the HSPT experience as smooth and stress-free as possible.